French filmmaker Francois Ozon continues to explore transgressive aspects of sexuality (see In the House) with this deliberately controversial drama about a teen prostitute. But since he refuses to indulge in the usual cliches, we don't react the way we think we should, so the film forces us to think about the story in a surprisingly fresh way.
The teen in question is Isabelle (Vacth), who in the summer of her 17th birthday orchestrates the loss of her virginity to a cute stranger. When she tells her little brother Victor (Ravat), he can't understand how Isabelle could so casually dump this boy. And she never tells her open-minded mother and stepdad (Pailhas and Pierrot). Back home in Paris, she secretly starts working after school as a high-class hooker, visiting her clients in pricey hotels. But when her favourite john (Leyson) dies suddenly, her secret comes out. And everyone wonders if she can go back to being a regular teen.
The twist here is that Isabelle comes from a liberal, wealthy family, and has no need to become a prostitute. She seems to do it out of boredom, because she doesn't need the money and isn't that interested in sex either. On the other hand, she loves pretending to be older than she is. Vacth reveals all of this through a remarkably transparent performance that's often unnerving to watch. By clouding her motivation, we almost become complicit in her actions. We certainly can't just sit back and watch passively.
Continue reading: Young & Beautiful [Jeune & Jolie] Review
Isabelle is striking French 17-year-old girl living a secret life of sexual indulgence as a paid escort. On losing her virginity, she decides that prostitution is not only a brilliant way to earn bags of cash, but it also becomes her biggest thrill as she explores all areas of her sexuality while being worshipped by the rich men who pay her. However, when she is found out by the French police and an online profile featuring a half-nude photo of her is discovered, her situation becomes much more complicated. Her parents are devastated; her mother is torn between shame, anger and fear; and it soon becomes clear that she has to start thinking very carefully about what she wants out of her life.
'Jeune Et Jolie' (which translates to 'Young And Beautiful') is a heart-breaking coming-of-age drama about teenage desires and making life choices. Directed and written by BAFTA nominated Francois Ozon ('Swimming Pool', '8 Women', 'In The House'), the film was nominated for the Palme d'Or award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and won the TVE Otra Mirada Award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival. It is set for release in the UK on November 29th 2013.
With Ozon's usual sharp writing and direction, this black comedy is a fabulous series of provocations, challenging us to explore how we see, or perhaps imagine, the people in our lives. It's also a playful exploration of the nature of storytelling itself, using a teacher-student relationship to reveal all kinds of uncomfortable truths.
The teacher and student in question are Germain (Luchini), who's tired of teaching literature to illiterate students, and shy 16-year-old Claude (Umhauer), a gifted young writer. His essays spark Germain's imagination because they continue on from each other to serialise his encounters with the family of his friend Rapha (Ughetto). As Claude writes about flirting with Rapha's mum (Sagnier) or becoming pals with his dad (Menochet), Germain becomes gripped by the story. And so does his wife Jeanne (Scott Thomas), who sees this as a wonderful escape from the mundane pressures in her life. But in a private tutoring session with Claude, Germain crosses an ethical line. And things start to get strange.
Writer-director Ozon is wickedly blurring the line between fact and fiction, as everyone who reads Claude's essays imagines the people in ways that fuel their own fantasies. So events unfold through a variety of perspectives, some of which must surely be imagined, especially as Germain and Claude adjust the characters to reveal hidden secrets. Yes, this brings out the voyeuristic tendencies in all of the characters, and in us as well, since we too are living vicariously through people whose lives seem so much more interesting than ours. Even if they are supposed to be us.
Continue reading: In the House [Dans la Maison] Review